tv [untitled] June 27, 2012 11:30pm-12:00am EDT
for the night special edition of conversations of great minds i'm joined by michael klare michael is a professor scholar and author and has written widely on topics from u.s. military policy to the global arms trade and global resource politics he currently serves as the five college professor of peace and world security studies and is the director of the five five college program in peace and world security studies in massachusetts michael's writings of a period of publications like foreign affairs in the nation there's also a defense of course is also the author of over a dozen critically acclaimed books putting his latest the race for what's left the global scramble for the world's last resources michael joins me now from our new york studios michael welcome. pleasure to be with you this evening thank you for
thank you so much for joining us is today on my radio show i had stephen moore the wall street journal editorial writer and and co-author with alvin laugh or i guess the laffer curve book and he was going on and on about how natural gas is going to be the salvation of america we've got all this clean cheap natural gas and fracking is going to save our country and. you know good times are here is is he right. you know in the short term this going to be a glut of natural gas and it's going to have some positive effect speak because it's going to make coal unnecessary for producing electricity but it's not going to save america it's not going to win a soft of our dependence on imported oil and it's not going to it's not going to last forever it's a short term thing and it's going to create tremendous environmental problems and
it's going to create a lot of hostility in the places where it's being produced so this is not going to save america no how does it create the environmental problems. if it burns cleaner than coal. because to extract gas from shale rock where most of the remaining gas is located you have to smash the rock apart you have to create fissures in the rock and to do that they use a lot of water under tremendous pressure and they laced the water with toxic chemicals acids and sol fins and you have to store this water someplace and this is producing a massive storage problem you can't let that water get into the drinking supply and you're doing this in places like upstate new york and pennsylvania where the water supply of big cities like new york is located so there's a great danger of poisoning the water supply of the big part of the northeast. is so would you would you characterize what's going on with natural gas right now as
a bubble. it's not a bubble in the sense that it's going to end quickly but it's a bubble against the long term of history you know of my last ten years but it's not going to last one hundred years which is what president obama said in his state of the union address what he said that it's not going to last one hundred years. he said we have enough natural gas for one hundred years well that's simply not accurate interesting very interesting one of the. actually back in one thousand nine hundred eighty as i recall julian simon and paul ehrlich made a famous bet with each other do you are you familiar with that you remember that. e.a.'s side to i don't know the exact details but of course i remember the famous bet yeah well i'll characterize it very quickly and i'd love to get your take on it because you write a lot about resource depletion and paul ehrlich had just written this book the
population bomb and he was talking about how you know population is exploding the next decade is going to add eight hundred million people to the earth and it did and he said that he bet that this basket of five metals it was ten copper i forget what the other three were but they would increase in price over the next decade because they become more scarce because there were more people and julian simon said no you know more pressure for these things more demand for them will create more inventiveness we'll figure out new ways to recycle them whatever and in fact julian simon ended up winning the battle and paul ehrlich paid him five hundred bucks or so paul ehrlich later said you know had they bet on something like you know carbon in the atmosphere he would have won i mean so if i guess my question is you know you write a lot about natural resources in fact the book the race for what's left the global scramble for the world's last resources is there a different metric for things like tin which are recyclable than there is for fossil fuels which are not. well you know what's true of oil is true of
everything and what wasn't quite understood at that time when they made that famous bet is an appreciation for the difference between easily accessible resources whether it's or oil tin copper or anything else and the hard to get stuff now we have a better understanding of that we've used up all of the easily accessible oil natural gas copper tin and most of the resources the things that are easy to extract out of the ground without huge expenditures of energy those are all now gone now there are a lot more resources left there's a lot of oil and natural gas and minerals and copper and tin in the arctic for example in greenland and if you're willing to spend vast amounts of money and risk tremendous environmental destruction and use a lot of energy in the process we can extract that remaining resources but there
are natural limits to that process and it gets more and more expensive and what paul ehrlich predicted is beginning to happen now the prices of basic commodities is rising quite rapidly so so you know some characterized ehrlich's i was a continue to be a big fan of paul ehrlich by the way. some characterize his work as you know thomas malthus back in the eighteenth century saying the eventually population actually this is theory was a population with spike in their resources would follow and then you know there would be this sawtooth pattern to it basically but are you are you promoting a mel through z. in perspective that there's going to be chaos and war over resources is periodic i well i do think that that's the case but what i'm predicting is something rather different which is to say that the earth provided us. the human species
with the great bounty of resources water lands to grow food on timber minerals and energy and we've benefited enormously from exploiting those resources and that's allowed us to increase our population to where it is today but we've now depleted the planet of all of those resources that were easily accessible and now it's going to be a struggle that's going to be a very hard tough struggle to continue to live on the planet at the at the way we are where accustomed to living consuming more year after year that's going to become increasingly difficult costly dangerous risky and i think it will lead to conflict i very much to think that's the case if all of us on the planet the americans the russians the chinese the europeans the japanese all seek to consume
more year after year that is not a sustainable possibility so what are we seeing the early cracks now in resource wars. absolutely you see it for example in the south china sea where there been a number of recurring clashes one just last month between china and the philippines over offshore oil and natural gas fields there been clashes in the east china sea of the same variety you see it in the caspian with is fighting over disputed oil and gas fields and in africa now where china and the united states are competing to get access to oil and natural gas and minerals you do very much see the beginning of these resource wars i was in south sudan in the dark for region a couple of years ago on the chinese were everywhere. cutting deals with cures
government cutting deals with what's his name the war criminal who runs dan north sudan. and it was really quite striking to see this but on the other hand it's in a just kind of an old movie i mean if i had been there one hundred years earlier i would have seen the british. and indeed that is the case and you know this is one of those big. interesting questions the chinese come to africa and they're all over africa and they say we're different from the british and the french and the portuguese in the belgians who came and raped and plundered you or your world your territory we come in we bring development but in fact what china's doing is coming to extract resources like everybody else and and that's debatable in my mind whether china is in practice whether china's speed
havior is very much different now they're not in slaving people they're paying them a wage in many cases overall they often bring their own. laborers to do the work so whether they're actually contributing to development as they say is another question but it basically they're there to extract resources to support their own economy but aren't we doing the same thing in nigeria for example and yes yes yes that's what i'm saying there's a race on between china india the united states europe and japan and everybody else to extract whatever they possibly can of the roma turtles that africa still possesses and what are your thoughts on the the arguments about the arctic and the possibility that the arctic might. actually is areas are are going out and becoming available for exploration. and where is that going to go.
indeed as we heat up the planet. the arctic is being affected more intensely than any other part of the planet it's heating faster than anywhere else and so one of the signs of that is that the arctic ice cap is melting and each summer it melts more than the summer before which will make it easier to explore for oil and natural gas in the arctic ocean and this does pose the possibility of exploiting the arctic's resources the problem here is you're you're accelerating a destructive process that will make the earth unlivable. and some predictions within within eighty years or thereabouts do you see that happening that rapid. you know you hear different estimates from climatologists
i'm not a climate scientist so i don't want to claim to have that expertise but indeed people say that by the end of this century we could see two or three degrees centigrade heating of earth with the very dire consequences you know it's it's really quite remarkable i'd like to get into solutions i think we've kind of defined the problem if we can do that when we come back from the break that's all right more internet special editions of conversations with great minds of michael klare coming up right after this break. there hasn't been anything yet on t.v.
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military follow. to the global arms trade in global resource politics he's the author of over a dozen critically acclaimed books including his latest the race for what's left the global rambled for the world's last resources let's get back to it michael just to to sort of recap and summarize. we we've been on this planet for one hundred sixty thousand years it's been ten thousand years since the agricultural revolution it's only been since eight hundred sixty five when colonel drake drilled the first commercial oil will in titusville pennsylvania that we've been using oil in a big way and in that one hundred fifty years hundred sixty years or so our population the planet's population hit its first billion in one thousand nine hundred we had two billion in one nine hundred thirty and well into the age of oil and now we're pushing seven billion would it be fair to say that the planet without oil without our using ancient sunlight to the you know run our machines and move
our produce around that we could really only feed a billion people or less than a bee the fewer than a billion people and right now we have seven billion and we're looking at the end of oil and that's a really really grim collision as a starting point is that an accurate analysis in your mind. i think in general principle that's accurate i don't want to be specific about numbers how much the planet can support without oil because with solar power and wind power we could probably replace oil for many purposes so let's not be too specific about the numbers but the basic the basic principle is accurate that it's only with oil that we've been able to increase the world population to where it is today and people don't appreciate how much food production today is dependent on cheap oil oil that's necessary for farm equipment you know for tractors and for irrigation
equipment for water pumps to bring food to market but also more importantly to produce all the fertilizers and the pesticides and herbicides all of that food essentially today is a byproduct of the oil industry and if you take oil out of the equation it's going to be very difficult without a lot of ingenuity to produce enough food to feed the population we have today of seven billion people so what do do we. well i think there's a lot that we have to do tom we have to use what's left of the world's oil in a much more sparing way a prudent way we have to ration it among the various needs food production medical uses pharmaceutical uses emergency uses and not reveal a sleeve spend it on trips to the mall in vehicles that get ten or fifteen or twenty
miles per gallon that's a frivolous waste of a resource that's rapidly disappearing so one thing is to use what we have much more conservative. but we also have to think about what we're going to do when oil eventually disappears we're going to have to have new transportation systems now a lot of work has been done on that already but we're not nearly ready for that day so we have to speed up the development of alternative transportation alternative transportation fuels and other ways of producing food without oil that's a that's a quite a big agenda do you see that happening anywhere in the world. certainly you see pieces of this are being undertaken in various parts of the world germany intends to get half a foot center g.'s supply from renewables by the middle of the century and many other countries are beginning to copy germany's behavior china is
claiming that it's going to vastly increase its reliance on renewable fuels south korea so there are countries that are making this effort. dwight eisenhower back in and when he was president i believe it was fifty six gave a speech to the american association of newspaper editors that sometimes referred to as the humanity hanging on the cross of iron speech in which he characterized war and warmest. and this was a guy who had no i mean he led american forces in world war two in the european theater he characterized the he said one battleship is ten thousand bushel i'm i don't remember the verbatim but you know one battleship is ten thousand bushels of wheat or it's you know five schools or it's three thousand homes and you know one one modern bomber is you know a. small city you know he used these metaphors and all and wrapped it up saying you know this is no way to live you you write extensively and have about war issues of
war and peace and geopolitics isn't there a lot to be said for the concept that if we put a lot of resources into building bombs and then drop them on someone those resources are gone whereas if we put those resources into building solar panels or wind power or figuring out how to produce food about oil we create a future for ourselves and if so how do we get that meme out there how do we spread that message. so the time you're absolutely right and and there are two dimensions to this problem one is the issue of priorities and and where our resources that is our financial resources are going at just as you say if you spend all that money on on military purposes and it's not available for other things especially in times like today when when the when we simply don't have enough money
to to cover all of our national needs so thinking wisely about what we treasure most is that education is that the health of the of our people and so on or this of preparing for war that's that's part of the equation but there's another part of the equation that i want to highlight and that is that we are making it impossible to cooperate with other countries in areas that's that that's essential and what i mean by that is that right now we are headed towards a new cold war with china an arms race with china especially a naval in an air air power arms race this is a result of the new military doctrine that president obama has adopted and the chinese are behaving in a like manner building up for an eventual war with the united states and this is creating an atmosphere in which it's impossible for the two of us to cooperate on things like alternative energy and global warming and if we don't cooperate there's
no hope of addressing those crucial questions the most crucial questions of our time so it's diverting us it's consuming our resources and diverting us from solving problems with other countries in a way that's absolutely essential it sounds like the arms race with the soviet union in the fifty's sixty's seventy's and eighty's and you know the old teacher you know i almost went to war and all i got was twelve thousand nukes. how do we break this cycle. of you know i think people have to be educated about all of this and come to appreciate what. what what the choice is that we face is a country do we do we want to do we want to enter a new cold war with china or do we want to cooperate with china in developing. the new technologies we're going to need to save ourselves and to prosper in the
new century. i work with the national priorities project and one of the tasks they do is is to show exactly how much money is being diverted to military spending from every community in america and people could go to the. national priorities or argy and find out where or how much money from their neighborhood their town is being diverted for that purpose what what makes you hopeful right now michael klare. assuming that you are what makes me hopeful oh yes what makes me hopeful tom is and i'm so grateful that i'm a college teacher and i'm exposed to young people all the time because they make me hopeful my students are absolutely determined to solve these problems and they are absolutely and completely working every night and day looking for
solutions and that's what makes me hopeful that the young people of this country and young people around the world for that matter are you know they're not just wringing their hands about how terrible things are there in the laboratory there and science classrooms figuring out new alternative forms of energy how to bring water to drought stricken areas of the third world they're really dedicated and that's what brings me hope one of the things that has really driven world culture particularly among young people is the availability of electronic communication and text messaging twitter facebook. computers the whole that. started with cell phones about a decade and a half two decades ago in the third world in a big way and and all of this stuff depends on a very small number of metals that most people have never heard of the rare earth metals you write about this in your book out of the race for what's left what's the
situation with rare earths. well rare earths are a category of metals minerals really rare earth elements they're called. that they're not exactly rare in the sense that they're very small numbers of the amounts of them but they're they're scattered in small amounts all over the the planets crust and they're very very hard to extract you have to use a lot of acids and arsenic to extract them from other minerals so environmentally it's very it's very risky proposition we used to produce them in the united states but the environmental risks were so great you get a lot of radioactive materials in the process that it was shut down china took over they were willing to overlook the. environmental risks and the radioactivity and
they cornered the market on rare earths and yet it turns out they're absolutely essential so now we're stuck with dependence on china for these materials this is an area where we need our young people our scientists to go to work and find out substitutes for these materials because they are hazardous to produce and we don't want to be dependent entirely on one country in the in the minute we have left michael klare what what what is the message you'd like to leave with their viewers . so you know the message is and i i think your viewers probably understand this without my having to you know lecture them about it is that we lived in. world where we assume that each year we could consume more than the year before and that's the message of advertising we're going to hear a lot of advertising about how the republicans are going to bring us that world back but you know the planet can now longer provide us with more each year
so we have to learn how to be smart how to live on the planet smartly by using less but living a better quality of life and we can do that humans can do that but we have to change our way of thinking so that we don't assume that we could waste nature's fountain that's the message i'd like to bring people very very well said michael klare thank you so much for being with us tonight. it's my pleasure going on to see this and other conversations with great minds go to our website conversations with great minds dot com. that's it for the big picture tonight don't forget democracy begins when you show up you know it's not a spectator sport get out there and get active tag you're it occupy something suitable.